Outlines of A Neo-Romanian Style House

A 1920s Neo-Romanian style house from Targoviste in southern Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

The image above is a processed photograph (gradient map using reverse copper filter) of a 1920s Neo-Romanian style house from the town of Targoviste in southern Romania. The architectural outlines of this impressive building are excellently evidenced by the dramatic contrasts. The conversion brings to the fore the essence of that edifice, its underlying “fundamental equation”, making it intelligible to those who try to understand its style and aesthetic intricacies. It is also a helpful tool for those contemporary architects in Romania that have clients requiring Neo-Romanian style designs. The skill of creating compositions in historical styles is practically absent/ long forgotten among many of the local architects, graduates of institutions that have became, since the last decades of the communist regime, something resembling glorified civil engineering universities rather that proper architectural schools. I like the Art Nouveau feel exuded by this processed image, which makes obvious through its strong outlines the filiation of the Neo-Romanian style from the Fin de Siècle national romantic architectural movements developed within the then pan-European Art Nouveau current.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

100 years old Danube paddle steamer sold by the Romanian state for the price of a second hand car

"The Citadel" paddle steamer (1903) on the repair bank in Romania (Romania Libera, 28 July 2010)

In what looks like another brazen move by the corrupt Romanian officials, one of the most picturesque pieces of Romania’s heritage, the Danube paddle steamer “Cetatea” (“The Citadel”), built in 1903 and used by the then European Danube Commission, has been sold in a so-called “public” auction for Euro 7,900, practically the price of a second hand car, to a grocer, a company probably linked with the gang infested scrap iron business or other unsavoury activities that are springing now up in crisis hit Romania. The story is detailed in the today edition of the newspaper Romania Libera. This is just another heritage loss, just as the continuous destruction of the country’s architectural heritage, practically unnoticed or decried by a public that does not care about its identity after five decades of communist brain wash and subsequent two decades of Russian oligarchic style transition to a market economy. Romania’s EU membership seems to be completely ineffectual in the face of these never punished broad daylight destructions and misappropriations of important pieces of European heritage.

Weekly Picture: Forgotten Basreliefs Representing Romanian royals (via Diana Mandache’s Weblog)

Weekly Picture: Forgotten Basreliefs Representing Romanian royals The Romanian Army Medical Corps Heroes Memorial (Monumentul Eroilor Sanitari) in Bucharest: bronze basrelief representing part of the Romanian royal family receiving high ranking officers of the the Rom … Read More

via Diana Mandache's Weblog

Bucharest mid-1930s Art Deco Style House

Bucharest mid-1930s Art Deco style house, Cotroceni area. (©Valentin Mandache)

From my fieldwork in Bucharest, I came to the view that an appreciable number of this city’s Art Deco style houses were designed by Italian architectural bureaus and/ or were also built by Italian construction firms active in the city during the inter-war period. There is a long tradition of Italian architects’ and builders’ presence in this region, first documented in in the late c17th when the Wallachian Prince Constantin Brancoveanu built his famous palaces that became an essential inspiration source for the later Neo-Romanian architectural style. The Romanian inter-war episode is part of the larger phenomenon of Italian designed Art Deco buildings that sprang up in many world locations, most famously in places such as Eritrea or Albania. The building in the photograph above is in my view an Italian architectural design pattern, on the lines of another case about which I wrote here, but of course that needs to be established by researching relevant archive documents. I like the harmony of the design and how the apparently contrasting volumes and different shapes hinge and play each other around the massive staircase tower.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian Architecture During the Great War

A sketchy life scale model suggesting a Neo-Romanian style house, exhibition at the Petit Palais, Paris 1917. (old postcard, Valentin Mandache collection)

Romania entered the war in August 1916 on the side of the Entente and after initial successes, was quickly overran by the Central Power armies, which forced the government to conclude a humiliating armistice in December 1917. France and Britain had little to offer in terms of consistent assistance to their ally in the Balkans, and consequently the country had to endure the enemy occupation of most of its territory and an attrition war in the refugee crowded eastern half of the province of Moldavia, which remained under the Romanian army control, helped by a Bolshevik infested Russian army. The postal card above presents a scene from an exhibition of solidarity with the Romanians, organised in Paris during those dark days, showing to the Parisian public, itself war weary, how a house in Romania would have looked like. The architect G. Sterian, had tried to suggest a Neo-Romanian style dwelling using makeshift materials and papier mache mouldings. This life scale model, which is more like a theatre stage setting, surrounded by palm tree plants alien to the Romanian climate and landscape, convey very aptly the tenebrous and unsettling war time atmosphere during one of the most difficult phases of the Great War for both Romania and France.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Little Paris Style House in Targoviste

Little Paris style house in Targoviste, dating from the 1890s, southern Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

This type of architecture was very popular throughout the late c19th and early c20th Romania, inspired from the French c19th historicist styles. The house in the photograph above, located in the centre of Targoviste, 80 km north-west of Bucharest, is a relatively well preserved example, conveying the idea of how the Romanian towns would have looked like during the Fin de Siècle era. I am enchanted by the provincial picturesque manner in which the different ornaments and structural elements are rendered- for example the pediment above the doorway, which contains the owner’s ornate monogram, is a near rectangle triangle, very remote in proportions from the classical Greek temple model that it tries to emulate. Targoviste has a fair number of such houses, which can be reasonably restored to their former glory for a fair price. Unfortunately there are not enough qualified craftsmen and other specialists capable to undertake such a task in nowadays Romania. However, the biggest problem is represented by the multitude of ignorant owners and property speculators whose usual objective is the demolition of such historic structures in order to free the land for modern, more profitable buildings or in the more fortuitous instances to alter the property in order to ‘improve’ it with modern amenities, as can can be seen in this particular example- the horrible air conditioning units above the doorway awning or the tasteless plastic frame double glazing that replaced the original ornate windows.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Church Shape Neo-Romanian Style House

A unusual, medieval Wallachian church shape, Neo-Romanian style house dating from the late 1920s. Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The ornate Neo-Romanian style house from the above photograph is in the final stages of a professional, in my opinion, renovation and restoration process. It is located in an area dotted with many prime Bucharest period property examples, embassies and exquisite government property edifices. What I found unusual about this building is its general shape, resembling closely that of a medieval Wallachian church, especially the types found in the Oltenia region of SW Romania. For example the arched porch next to the house doorway, visible in the second plane of the lower left corner area, is inspired from that of the Tismana monastery. I like how the church altar area is resembled by the apse like ground level veranda that has above it a beautiful alcove, tiered in three sectors that result in a discreet balcony. Also remarkable are the street fence poles, crowned by elegant jardininers decorated with Neo-Romanian style motifs.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

The Tallest Art Deco Flagpole in Bucharest

The tallest Art Deco style flagpole in Bucharest: about 10 metres tall; embellishes a mid 1930s block of flats in the Opera area. (©Valentin Mandache)

The photomontage above shows from different angles what, in my opinion, is the tallest Art Deco flag post ornament in Bucharest. It is about 10 meters tall, but despite that respectable height, is quite difficult to notice, being placed along the stair tower, on the side corner of a well designed Art Deco building, among a high density urban landscape. That high density of the built area and the fact that most of the other houses around are older than the block of flats containing the flagpole, imposed this interesting design solution. The plot of land on which the edifice had to be erected presented a difficult sharp angle corner, which was imaginatively used by the architect to suggest within its confines the bow area and flagpole of an ocean liner, a favourite source of inspiration for the Art Deco era designers.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian Style Doorway From the 1910s Decade

1910s Neo-Romanian style doorway, Silvestru area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style doorway assembly in the photograph above is very interesting in the sense that it displays decorative motifs typical of the 1910s Bucharest architectural fashions, just before the start of the Great War. The main Neo-Romanian features are the Ottoman type broken arch moulding that acts as a pediment and the gridiron of the door windows, also inspired form Ottoman Balkan motifs. The door itself also contains Little Paris style decorations like the wood carved details on the lower level panels, or the central beam motifs, etc.  The architectural syncretism between the Neo-Romanian and the Little Paris styles, was in many aspects a characteristic of that decade, preceding the triumph of the former and the obliteration of the later style after the Great War.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Little Paris Style House in an Idyllic Setting

Little Paris style house dating from the 1890s in a verdant idyllic summer 2010 setting. Targoviste, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

This Sunday last, I went for a second short architectural photography trip to Targoviste in southern Romania. The city is located in an Arcadia like natural setting, in the zone of contact between the Subcarpathian piedmont and the Wallachian plain (also called the Lower Danube prairie), between two important rivers, the Dambovita and the Ialomita. During the long summer seasons, the gardens and orchards of the local historic houses are overwhelmed by a dense explosion of lush leaves, delicious cherries and berries, and pungently perfumed flowers. That glorious state, which I just tried to describe, is much better conveyed by the above photograph of a Targoviste Little Paris style house (French c19th historicist styles provincially interpreted in Romania) dating from the last decade  of the c19th. It is a somehow stripped-down version of a Little Paris house, in contrast with the more abundantly decorated examples from Bucharest. Nevertheless, the patriarchal setting, typical of this provincial town in southern Romania, and the superb, near wild garden give this house an idyllic air of peace and timelessness. In my opinion this type of period property is one of the most affordable an rewarding potential renovation projects for anyone willing to take up such a challenge in this part of Europe.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Bear & Berries: A Neo-Romanian Style Panel

Bear and berries 1920s Neo-Romanian style panel, Royal Palace area, Bucharest. (Valentin Mandache)

The usual imagery displayed by the Neo-Romanian style decorative panels, on building façades, balconies or verandas, consist of motifs from biblical stories, inspired from the decorations of the late medieval-Wallachian churches. The most encountered motifs are those of the Peacock in the Garden of Eden, the Eagle Protector, the Lion or the Griffins. The above panel, which depicts a bear among berry leaves and vines, grabbing a succulent berry, is more unusual in the fact that is not inspired from the church panoply, but celebrates a very dear theme of the Romanian national romantic imagery, namely that of the rich natural environment of the country teaming with wild life, hosted by the Carpathian Mountains and the surrounding hills. The bear is also one of the totemic animals in Romanian ethnography and hence its depiction in visual arts, painting especially. Its architectural renderings are quite rare and that is why I found this particular panel that decorates the veranda fence of a Neo-Romanian style house, dating from the 1920s, very appealing  and worthy to bring it to your attention.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Art Deco Style Metal Doorway

Art Deco style doorway of a mid 1930-s block of flats. Cantemir area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The well proportioned Art Deco style doorway from the above photograph, with its abstract, cubist-like decorative design, and stern metallic reflections, exudes in a very apt manner the air of confidence typical of the age of mechanical machinery and production line factories brought about by the technological innovations and the economies of scale of the inter-war period- the environment in which the Art Deco and modernist styles emerged and developed. I very much like the fact that this doorway is still making a powerful impression of freshness and vigour on anyone who cares to admire it (I found it adorning a very derelict mid 1930s small block of flats, on a run down Bucharest street), despite its quite venerable age and the fact that it saw next to nothing maintenance in the last seventy years, a testimony of the quality of materials and workmanship used in its manufacturing in that period.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian Style Architectural Lettering: Photomontage & Slide Show

Neo-Romanian style architectural lettering: examples dating from 1890s to 1940s, except the upper right hand corner panel Latin type derived from Old Church Cyrillic letters as seen in the c18th Bucharest church votive inscription from the upper left hand corner of this photomontage. (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style architectural lettering is a Latin type rendering using peculiar letter shapes inspired from the Cyrillic script of the Old Church Slavonic texts. This distinctive rendering conveys a powerful identity message reflected in the use by the Romanian language speakers of both scripts throughout their history. The Romanian language is a Romance/ Latin origin idiom, sharing many similar traits with Portuguese and Sardinian, but with a strong Slavic influence over its vocabulary and grammar. That is the result of the historical cultural development of the Romanian communities in close contact with speakers of Slavic languages in South East Europe and as followers of a Christian Orthodox creed based for centuries on Old Church Slavonic liturgy. As a consequence, the influence extended to the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in rendering the Romanian language, until well into the c19th. The alphabet reform of mid c19th, a part of the then nation building process, saw the adoption of the Latin alphabet, perceived as more prestigious and proper for a Latin people, proud of its roots in the ancient Empire of Rome. However, the Romanians kept hankering back to the symbolism and messages of the Cyrillic script associated with the heroic medieval times of battles and resistance against the Catholic power of the Hungarian Kingdom or the Islam of the Ottoman Empire. That coincides with the identity messages of the Neo-Romanian order, that has its ideological roots in the c19th national romantic movement and glorification of the medieval past. As a consequence, the architectural lettering is a very important component of the Neo-Romanian decorative panoply. I collected in the photomontage above examples of this type of letter rendering from a multitude of sources: architect’s name tablets, proprietor’s name, school plaques, house name inscriptions, etc. dating from 1890s (see the Art Nouveau like shapes) to 1940s (see the discernible Art Deco patterns on the panel at the centre of the photomontage). There is also, for comparison, an old votive inscription in the Cyrillic script dating from 1715, that adornins the ‘Saint Apostles’ church in Bucharest, visible on the upper left hand corner of the photomontage. The panels are also displayed individually in the slide show bellow.

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I endeavor through this daily series of articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Never Finished Art Deco House

Never finished Art Deco house, dating from cca 1939, just before the start of the WWII. Targoviste, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

Last Sunday I went for a short architectural photo trip to Targoviste, the erstwhile capital of the former principality of Wallachia (the city had that status until 550 years ago when the prince Vlad the Impaler started to use Bucharest as a princely seat instead, thus gradually ending Targoviste’s status as the capital city). I posted a series of photographs taken that day on the Twitter and Twitpic websites, which proved very popular, with one image standing out as the most noted, namely an unfinished Art Deco style house dating from the start of the WWII (it was also re-Twitted by the account of the British TV station Channel 4- Homes programme, which probably helped to spread the news). I am now also posting that image here in order to bring it to the attention of a wider audience. It is indeed quite rare to find still unfinished Art Deco style houses anywhere in the world, as is the case here, a fact which can bring first hand insights into the construction methods of that era. The house was built, I believe, sometime just before the war, in 1939, when it reached more or less the present state. Because the dreary conditions caused by the onset of the war, which was very calamitous for Romania, it was left in that state. The end of the war and the ensuing more than six decades period were again probably quite unfavourable for the owners of this building to afford its completion, thus perpetuating its ‘never finished’ house status. I very much like how the exposed brick and the raw concrete bits give the impression of a new and very modern building, although in fact is a veritable time capsule.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian Style Floral Frieze

Detail from a Neo-Romanian style floral frieze part of a richly decorated panoply of a house dating from the early 1930s in the Gara de Nord area of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I already published back in April an image with the veranda of the house that contains this wonderful frieze, where the blossoming decoration can be seen in its Neo-Romanian style context, click here for access. This moulded strip reminds me of the oversized floral ornaments sculpted on the façades of the ancient Ottoman palaces from Anatolia, a motif which via the Ottoman Balkan architecture found its way into the decorative panoply of the Neo-Romanian order.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.